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Darlington 1-0 Newport County

By Peter Shuttleworth
BBC Sport Wales at the Darlington Arena

Darlington' Liam Hatch
Hatch is on his third loan to Darlington from parent club Peterborough

Mark Cooper's reign as Darlington boss started with a hard-fought win over Conference new boys Newport County.

Liam Hatch's fourth-minute strike secured victory for the team relegated from League Two last season.

The England semi-pro striker's header from Paul Arnison's deep free-kick was the difference.

County dominated in the second-half and home keeper Sam Russell made a string of top-class saves to deny Charlie Henry, Jamie Collins and Craig Reid.

Newport County boss Dean Holdsworth was determined for his side to continue the momentum from their record-breaking Blue Square South title win last season.

But the Exiles, returning to the division where the old Ironsides folded, conceded early as Darlington capitalised on some poor County marking to show they are equally determined for an immediate return to the Football League.

Arnison's long, looping free-kick eluded County centre-back Chris Todd and on-loan striker Hatch headed in from 15 yards off Glyn Thompson's right-hand post with the County keeper helpless.

And it could have been worse for County but Danny Hone failed to keep his 15-yard strike down after Richard Offiong's set-up from Arnison's right-wing cross.

But County felt aggrieved after having a penalty claim rejected when targetman Robbie Matthews was hauled down Darlington captain Ian Miller.

The hosts, however, had a penalty appeal turned down themselves when Hone was grounded by Todd but again referee Scott Duncan waved away any protests.

Newport, though, were revived in the second-half and Charlie Henry would have levelled for Holdsworth's men but for a superb save from new keeper Russell after the move of the match.


Craig Reid's flick teed-up the winger whose close-range shot was palmed over at point-blank range by debutant Russell.

Darlington boss Cooper had summer-signing Russell to thank for ensuring their opening day win as he tipped over a cute Reid header and saved a Jamie Collins volley off the line with his legs from a deep Guiseppe Sole corner.

But County, back in the non-league's top-flight after a 21-year absence, dominated the second-half and Reid should have equalised with a quarter-of-an-hour remaining.

Henry's cross was flicked on but last season's top-scorer skewed his shot across Russell's goal when Reid should have hit the target.

Henry again went close with a header from Collins' long throw but County could not capitalise on their dominance as the side that tasted league defeat just three times last season earned a Conference wake-up call in the north east.

Darlington: Russell, Arnison, Miller, Hone, Austin, Terry, Chandler, Gary Smith, Senior (Wright 67), Hatch (Michael Smith 88), Offiong (Moore 62).
Subs Not Used: Jack, Clarke.

Booked: Austin, Wright.

Goals: Hatch 4.

Newport County: Thompson, Bignot (Knights 89), Warren, Todd, Collins, Henry, Odhiambo, Rogers (Foley 68), Rose, Reid, Matthews (Sole 69).
Subs Not Used: Garner, Thorne.

Booked: Odhiambo.

Att: 2,597.

Ref: Scott Duncan (Tyne & Wear).

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BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Oct 11 |  Wales

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